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Cuting Antibiotic Use in Food Animals continued...

But it's not at all clear that the animal industry is ready to comply. In a news release, the National Pork Producers Council said it opposes the plan.

"The loss of and restricted access to products expected with implementation of the [FDA] guidance on the use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry production likely will disproportionately affect small producers, have a negative effect on animal health, and increase the cost of producing food while not improving public health," the NPPC said.

Consumer and environmental advocates were quick to condemn the FDA plan.

While commending the FDA for moving forward on the issue, Consumers Union said it was "disappointed" that the plan was merely voluntary. "We need stronger, quicker action," Jean Halloran, Consumers Union's director of food policy initiatives, said in a statement.

FDA is "pretending to act while barely acting at all," said a statement from the National Resources Defense Council.

What's Wrong With How Antibiotics Are Given to Food Animals?

Most of the antibiotics given to food animals are put in their feed or water. This almost always is done on a herd-wide or flock-wide basis. It makes animals put on weight faster and makes them gain more weight with less food.

When antibiotics are used this way, the dose the animals get isn't enough to kill off all the bacteria inside them. Over time, the bacteria become more and more drug resistant. When such superbugs infect humans, standard treatments don't cure the infection.

There are some researchers, such as an expert panel of the Institute of Food Technologists, who say the odds are low that any of these bugs will find their way into humans. But in testimony before Congress, the USDA, the FDA, and the CDC all said that the use of antibiotics in food animals leads to infections with drug-resistant bacteria in humans.

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